Cabin Fever

Experiencing “Cabin Fever” caused a realization that if Rob Zombie
understands and appreciates the bloody, no-holds-barred quirkiness of
’70s grind-house gore-mongers, then Eli Roth is actually channeling
them. “Cabin Fever” attains the tricky balance of honoring the
much-maligned horror films of the late 60s and 70s, without a hint of
the superiority often supplied by ironic camp. “Scream” kicked down
the door and revitalized the horror movie as we knew it, but was then
trampled and eaten by smirking, sub-par competitors that mistook sarcasm
for wit and loud noises for scares. Roth remembers a time when melting
flesh, red necks and incoherent children screaming “pancakes” while
completing complex aerial spin-kicks could be interesting without
winking at the camera.

The hype surrounding “Cabin Fever” may indeed ruin it for
hard-core fans that have been reading about Roth’s escapades for years
and would like to see this film as the second coming of Tobe Hooper and
the return of airplane vomit-bags to the Cineplex. While the mainstream
city-folk at tonight’s screening certainly screamed, laughed, and made
repulsive “ehhhhhh” sounds at all the right times, Roth’s complete
creative return to the gore of yore may leave the “Cannibal
Holocaust” fan club scratching their head. In shear amount, the
blood is no more than the average Hollywood horror flick, and the
make-up effects, while fantastic, are only onscreen for a few seconds at
a time.

None of this is complaining, just warning to the
strong-stomached who may protest too much. This is an absolutely
fantastic ride, and one of the best horror movies I’ve seen in years.
Roth clearly loves all the same movies I (we?) do, though the in-jokes
and references are special treats for the starving serious genre fan,
not the casual viewer. “The Evil Dead,” “Night of the Living
Dead,” “The Last House on The Left,” and “The Texas Chainsaw
Massacre” all make appearances without being crammed down our throats.
For instance, a shot of a college student lying on the cement as a
semi-truck slams on its breaks, for just a second, recalls the
Hitchhiker from TCM. I won’t spoil the rest, and I’m sure I missed
several, but “Cabin Fever” is a veritable high-school reunion for
the best and most important horror films of the past 30 years, without
actually stealing from any or lessening its own chills.

Roth achieves a sustained level of tension in his story of 5
college friends spending some post-finals time getting drunk and stoned
(and, of course, committing the unforgivable act of pre-marital sex) in
a cabin in the woods. After a visit from a man who insists on
projectile-coughing blood all over the cabin and their truck, good-girl
Karen (Jordan Ladd) comes down with a nasty case of rotting flesh.
Things go from worse to worser as her cabin-mates turn on her and
one-another, tempering their desire to help Karen with their
determination not to catch the disease themselves.

Often, critics slam horror movies for their card-board
characterizations, and here not much is learned about the leads. There
is an obnoxious frat guy, a cocky guy, a nice guy, a girl that likes
sex. People don’t break into soliloquies or discourses on the
existence of the soul while they are being EATEN ALIVE BY THEIR OWN
SKIN. You like the characters or you don’t by their actions, and Roth
provides plenty of chances for them to show their own strengths and
weaknesses (and, in the case of Cerina Vincent, her naked body, a lot).
Which brings me to sex, which is used both in the gratuitous way
it used to be before the MPAA stigmatized independent film-makers (just
ask Lloyd Kaufman of Troma), and to sting the audience viscerally,
showing them how the sensuality of a beautiful body is only one
thin-skinned layer from a mess of blood and organs. The dread grows
because you know, at any second, any character could scratch their face
with their fingernail or stroke their brow and toss away the skin with
the sweat. While this alone may have filled the runtime nicely, Roth
envisions a woods filled with blood-thirsty dogs, revenge-driven,
pistol-wielding rednecks, and a kid with Billy-Ray Cirus hair hell-bent
on biting anyone near his porch swing.

Shifting effortlessly from humor to gross-out to a few
honestly-earned jumps, “Cabin Fever” really does attempt to shove
everything from “The Shining” to “Motel Hell” into an hour and
a half, and it nearly succeeds. A few unnecessary scenes, as well as a
relatively un-eventful ending for a heroic character bog down until the
absolutely unhinged final scenes. When the end-credits kicked up the
audience was torn between laughing and squirming, talking loudly about
what had scared them the most. A good start for Roth, lets hope
independent horror holds his interest.

Want to post your opinion? Then head on over to our Cabin Fever review thread.


The DVD Review:

These days DVDs are usually planned out way in advance, and many of the special features are planned as well, giving the consumer a DVD that’s fully packed for such an incredible price. But the question with most Lions Gate Films is that since they picked up an independent film that they hadn’t really planned on it being such a success, can they still make the DVD worthwhile? After a let down with the House of 1000 Corpses DVD, I didn’t really expect too much from the Cabin Fever DVD, which is an even smaller flick in the eyes of Hollywood. But after my initial viewing, I found the DVD to be extremely well packed for such a unplanned success. The reason the DVD kicks so much ass is because Eli Roth and whomever made this DVD took whatever they could scrounge up related to Roth and plopped it down on this puppy, which carries a $26.99 SRP.

First off, the opening interactive menu (pictured below) is really cool; it shows a leg being shaven that displaying the options underneath, and then it bleeds down the leg. The special features menu (pictured below) is really cool looking too, with eerie sound effects. The special features are interesting to say the least, very interesting. There’s Five Production Commentaries, “Beneath the Skin” – The Making of Cabin Fever, Three Director’s Shorts: “The Rotten Fruit”, The Family Friendly Cut, Chick-Vision Cut, Music Only Track, and Pancakes!

What really made this DVD for me was the “Beneath the Skin” – The Making of Cabin Fever featurette. Unlike some of the other DVDs recently, Cabin Fever’s making of featurette is a fantastic 30 minutes long. Besides watching them set up the scenes, you get alot of interactions between Eli Roth, the cast and Roth’s parents. I bet you didn’t know that Cabin Fever is based on a true story, that actually happened to Roth! While on a trip, he had a flesh eating disease, that caused him to lose layers of flesh when he shaved, that’s when inspiration hit (always at the weirdest times right?)! We also get to see the “love” between the cast and crew and learn some of the tricks on how and why the lighting is the way that it is. This is by far one of the best features on the DVD.

Next up is my favorite part of this DVD, which almost makes it worth the money right here. The Three Director’s Shorts: “The Rotten Fruit” is amazing. They are three animated (claymation) videos Eli Roth made in 2000 about a band named “Rotten Fruit.” The videos are violent, vulgar and hilarious! They run about five minutes each, but it’ll leave you dying for a DVD of just these puppies! If you want a taste, you’ll be able to watch some clips here in the near future. There’s just something about rotten fruit murdering a boy band that makes me tingle.

The “Pancakes” music video is pretty cool, its nothing super amazing, it just displays the “Pancake kid” showing off his super amazing karate moves to a song entitled “Gay Bar” performed by Electric Six; it runs around 1:45.

The “Family-Friendly Version” is something I got a laugh off of once before. If you own the Freddy Got Fingered DVD, then you know exactly what this is. Its a freaking hysterical 30 second version of the film, with cheesy happy music. The “Chick-Vision” cut of the film is perfect for when you’re dying to watch the film, but your girlfriend is to chicken shit to watch it. Chick Vision will “automatically block out the most frightening scenes as they approach, offering a happier viewing experience,” only problem is, the subtitles won’t work, big deal right?

Unfortunately, the last goodie I won’t have time to listen for awhile; but come on, five commentaries, how can that not kick ass?!

I just recently found the easter eggs with a little help from Eli, and I must say, these eggs RULE! The “eggs” placed throughout the DVD show a little story revolving around Deputy Winston (Giuseppe Andres) as he “parties” hard with porn superstar Stephanie Swift and Playboy TV personality Janelle Perry from The Weekend Flash! Im not going to give away much, but it’s pretty funny, totally worth checking out.

Overall, I give the DVD 4 1/2 out of 5 Skulls. If you are a fan of the flick, then you’ll be a fan of the DVD. Get your own copy on January 20th, and watch back here in January for your chance to win a copy! Check out the official site until then.

Official Score